30 Days of Blogging, Day 24

It has been what, maybe a week since I started down the slow weaning road again? She’s already showing signs of self-weaning all the way. We cut out all nursing sessions during the day except for nursing to sleep for nap and bedtime, and we still allow nursing through the night. She has started to come off the boob at bedtime and roll over to be spooned the rest of the way to sleep. She has only been waking once or twice a night for milk. It’s amazing what cutting back on nursing does to her sleep….

The downside is that she only had a bit of milk from one side at bedtime today, and she didn’t have any at nap, so one side is full of hard lumps. We’re staying with family this weekend and I don’t have a pump to help me out, and I’m garbage at hand expressing. So I find myself actually hoping that she’ll wake up soon for a nighttime feed…

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30 Days of Blogging, Day 18

Weaning from breastfeeding. I don’t think I’ve ever been so back and forth on a life decision as I have been with the decision of when and how to wean my daughter from breastfeeding. My blog reflects that with a mix of posts about weaning attempts and posts about how hardcore committed I am to breastfeeding.

Some days I feel like I’m ready to throw in the towel. Like I’m being tapped of my energy and life essence, or I’m touched out, or I just want to be able to have that second big glass of wine after a hard day. I look at my big, healthy toddler and I think, it’s just for me that we’re still nursing. She doesn’t need this anymore.

But then on other days I’m extremely defensive about any suggestion that we stop. I want to fight back against the stigma about toddlers breastfeeding. I shout from the rooftops that the WHO recommends breastfeeding until age 2. I want to remind everyone that breasts were made to feed children. I love how easy it is for me to soothe my cranky toddler, how easy it is for me to get her to sleep (a thousand times a night……), and how reassured I feel when she’s sick and she’s staying super hydrated because she loves nursing so much.

But today I’m flopping to the side of being ready to wean. My nipples have bloody little cuts on them from sharp fingernails and teeth. My wife can no longer sooth her through the night since we gave up night weaning. Last night she was attached to me for hours in the middle of the night and I felt a really uncomfortable surge of anxiety rushing through me. It was like restless leg syndrome in my whole body. I wanted my body back.

So once again, I’m launching a plan to wean. I’m actually considering trying to be completely done by the time she’s 18 months, which is just over one month away. The last nursing sessions to go will be nursing to sleep at nap and bedtime.

Don’t hold me to this timeline, because we all know I’m a flip flopper. But this is my current goal.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 9

It’s cold again. It’s supposed to go down to  -20°C again tonight, and it’s icy and snowy outside. It’s the kind of weather for family cuddles. The kind of weather where I miss bed sharing with my baby. 

And when your baby has another nasty cough and cold and has to choose whether to breathe through her mouth and trigger more coughing, or breathe through her nose and not get enough air to her lungs, it’s really, really hard to withhold nighttime nursing. Nursing is the throat soothing cure-all that helps her sleep through anything. 

So about that night weaning we started… the night weaning has gone out the window during my shift. While my wife is on call for nighttime wakings (from bedtime till 1am), Avery goes back to sleep with nothing more than my wife poking her head through the doorway and saying “go back to sleep.” During my shift, I’ve started nursing her again. It’s how she sleeps well through being sick. It’s the only way to get her back to sleep during her bouts of middle-of-the-night insomnia (even during my wife’s shift). 

So weaning is a discussion topic for another day (or month, or year….).

On a related note, Avery LOVES peppermint tea. It’s just a dried mint leaf from our garden steeped in hot water. And when she’s sick, a little dollop of honey is a great throat soother. 

Night weaning log – night 1

7:00pm Bedtime was easy and peaceful. It hasn’t been that way in a while. No pinching or climbing on me, no back and forth wanting rocked, fed, rocked, fed… Just a calm nurse to sleep after reading a couple of books. It took 20 minutes total instead of the hour it has been taking lately. A perfect final bedtime routine before a night of changes. I don’t want to move her to the crib. This is the last she’ll be calmly attached to me till morning. I’m nervous about the night ahead, but I’m ready for battle. I think.

9:40pm My wife rocked it. Got her back to sleep in a couple of minutes flat. No tears.

10:30pm Wife rocked it again. Fast, no tears.

12:15am Wife wasn’t waking up, so I gave it a shot. She cried half heartedly for milk for about 5 minutes and then fell asleep on my shoulder. I failed at the first attempt at transferring her to the crib, but got her down within 15 min.

12:35am Just got back to bed and she woke up again… Clearly my transfer wasn’t that smooth. Sent wife in. 45 minutes of intense screaming for mama. I had my fingers in my ears. The cats were crowding my face, worried about her. Finally my wife won the battle and got her to sleep on her shoulder. Transfer to crib took another half hour – Avery didn’t want to let go of the warm body. I feel bad for my wife. I know this is as hard on her physically as it is on me emotionally. Avery weighs 28 pounds now and fights us with every last ounce when she’s upset.

Crying. My shift. I chug some juice for energy and prepare myself. I check the time –

6:00am.

She slept through till morning! I have gotten up to nurse her back to sleep at LEAST twice between midnight and 6am every night for her entire life, but after being refused milk and refused mama through all those tears, she may be getting the hint…


*side note: the behind the scenes of our night weaning process included 2 weeks of cutting out all random, on-demand feeds through the daytime. I said “no milk right now” and offered water, food, or hugs instead of milk. The purpose of this was to get her used to having me call the shots. The only daytime feeds she has had for 2 weeks have been structured at wakeup, naptime, and bedtime. It has been easy to distract her with the alternatives during the day. To be honest, I’ve missed the random snuggles in the middle of play time or after a tantrum when nursing would calm her and make her so cuddly. But I’m hoping the sacrifice helped to make the transition more gradual and palatable. 

There were also some subtle changes to nursing through the night in the two weeks leading up to now. I worked on the Pantly Pull-Off (from the book, No Cry Sleep Solution) and tried to get Avery to finish nursing and fall the rest of the way to sleep rocking, instead of sleeping on the boob. For several nights, I tested whether a cuddle would suffice to replace milk at wakeups (but never said “no milk” because I was saving that for the actual weaning). 

Weaning from nighttime breastfeeding… the excruciating decision

I have loved breastfeeding. Avery has loved it. We have had such a lucky go of it. I always imagined I’d continue on-demand breastfeeding until Avery self-weaned. I was prepared to continue beyond her second birthday. But here I am, with a 15 month old, starting down the path of slowly weaning. For now I intend to keep 3 nursing sessions a day – wake up, nap time, and bedtime. But everything else is coming to an end.

The biggest influence was a combination of trying to protect my wife’s feelings (hear me out) and a hope that weaning would improve sleep.

Protecting my wife’s feelings is a complicated issue. My wife supports breastfeeding. She understands its benefits to the baby – to a point. She understands it as having nutritional benefits, but doesn’t agree with using it for comfort beyond a certain age. That age has turned out to be 1 year. She’s a big proponent of teaching independence.

However, it’s more than just my wife’s opinions at play here. It’s her emotions. It’s the fact that she struggles to feel like an equal parent. And because that is such a sensitive subject in families like ours – where one parent is genetically related and another is not – I feel the need to adjust my natural inclinations for mother-baby bonding and open up our bond to include my wife. I need to take some responsibility for bringing my wife into the loop, and for us, at this point in time, that means reducing MY importance as a parent over and above my wife. The only way I can think to do this is to slowly start the weaning process.

This whole idea came about because of night time routines. My wife wants to help out when Avery wakes a thousand times a night, but Avery would hit her in the face and scream and call for mama (me). She knew that as soon as I entered the room she’d get to nurse back to sleep. I was a human pacifier. I was ok with that. But I was preventing my wife from being able to pacify her.

More than that, I was exhausted and NEEDED my wife’s help at night. For the last 3 weeks I had felt nauseous from exhaustion to the point of not being able to eat dinner. Some days I’d just lay on the floor while Avery climbed on me and I’d feel like such a useless parent. I knew things needed to change. I had hoped they’d change on their own, but I couldn’t wait it out any longer. While it used to seem attainable to get up all night with Avery until she figured out how to sleep on her own at 2, or even 2 1/2 years old, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of being this exhausted for that much longer.

So my wife and I came up with a plan. It’s a gentle sleep training method that works for both of us – hopefully all three of us. Phase one is to eliminate nighttime feeds, cold turkey. I will still nurse her to sleep at bedtime and nurse her during morning cuddles in our bed anytime after 5am. I am NOT ready to completely wean. These feeds are very important to me.

My wife will take wake up’s up till 1am, I will take 1 to 5am. I will wear a crew neck shirt (wish I owned a turtle neck right now…). We will rock her back to sleep. No milk. We will offer her water if she is persistently asking for milk.

Phase two is about teaching her to fall asleep on her own, no rocking. I’m not ready to get into that yet. It’s too overwhelming. But this is our starting point. My hope is that she’ll have less reason to call us in when she wakes when she knows she won’t get milk.

Just as I documented the floor mattress adventure in a daily log, I’ll document the night weaning process here for anyone who wants to follow along (and offer support!).

At the time of publishing this we’ve already completed one night of this new program. I’m delaying posts by a day or two so I have time to process everything.

Breastfeeding, fashion and mom jeans

I used to love clothes. I like to think I appreciated finer fabrics and timeless style rather than being too fast-fashion-consumerist, but I also did a lot of online shopping in my fashion heyday and I was super cheap about it. I’m feeling my old love of nice clothing slowly coming back after a year and a half of maternity dresses, leggings and nursing camis. I think it’s because fall is on the horizon, and, as much as I love a flowing maxi dress, I love a good sweater and boots more. 

So what does this have to do with breastfeeding? The shirts. I have worn the same pile of camis and tank tops all year so I could easily pull my shirt down to breastfeed. Lifting a shirt up didn’t work for me – it would fall over the baby’s face a lot and annoy me. I have shirts that I haven’t worn in a long time and they’re calling my name… But I can’t comfortably wear them while I’m around my baby. The first silk shirt I wore in over a year was worn on my date night last month, for two hours. I love breastfeeding, but fashion freedom is one thing to look forward to when it’s over. 

And mom jeans. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror the other day and realized how “mom” my jeans really were. How did that happen? I’m sure I wore these jeans before getting pregnant and they didn’t look like this. Maybe it’s because now they’re paired with a nursing cami to complete the my-body-belongs-to-a-baby look. 

My goal for the fall season is to make sure my bottom half has style, and to get use out of nice shirts when I can get away with it (maybe when the baby is in daycare through the day). 

Sexy nursing bras – are they mutually exclusive concepts? 

When I was pregnant, I bought two nursing bras. One grey bravado with moderate support that unclips, and one la leche league sports bra style that was recommended as a nighttime nursing bra (also in drab grey). I loved both of these bras. They functioned perfectly for what they were – a garment to hold in my boobs for easy release when needed to feed a baby. 

I wore these two bras for 10 months straight. My wife (ever patient and polite about it) made a comment one day about how I needed some new bras – something not so drab, to spoil myself a little. So I bought myself a bright blue bravado unclipping style. It’s the same style as my previous bra. Nice and high, wide straps, supportive as hell… But just as the other two, so not sexy. My wife tried to be supportive, but the fact is, she was saddened by how I’d let my sexy side go completely. We’ve had some long, deep conversations about this. 

Here’s my deepest and innermost confession about my breasts after becoming a mom. When I had the baby, I lost my sex drive. I didn’t have a huge one before the baby, but as a new mom, it was totally and utterly gone. Even as my body recovered (which took about 6 months) and I started to feel like myself again, I remained first and foremost a nursing mom. My baby is and always has been a big nurser. I nurse in front of family (my poor dad and father in law don’t quite know where to look), at restaurants while I’m eating my dinner, in the car on the side of the road, in the park on the grass… I need to be able to whip ’em out for a famished baby at a moment’s notice, so it’s really hard to see my breasts as something sexual. When I need to breastfeed in front of family, the last thing I want is to feel like I’m revealing sexualized breasts to everyone.  But after a while… after a year in the same drab nursing bras with cotton pads stuffed in there to absorb milky leaks, sometimes partners will start to mourn the loss of sexualized breasts. I think this is totally fair. So is not wanting your breasts to be sexual things while breastfeeding your offspring. It’s a tough subject. 

But, as it has been almost a year, I’m slowly (painfully slowly) starting to put some effort into my appearance again. I’m starting to remember that I enjoyed looking stylish, and wearing things that made me feel sexy. So after a particularly emotional conversation with my wife, I bought two new bras from motherhood maternity as a surprise for my wife. One is a simple black bra that unclips, but it has thin straps, an underwire, and it’s low enough to not be seen under a low cut shirt. The other is a black lace bralette style. It just pulls down when I need to feed the baby, so there is really nothing “breastfeeder” about it. 

I was very hesitant about buying something like this because I was afraid of feeling yucky nursing my baby in them. I was afraid that thoughts of “these breasts are sexual things” would creep into my head while my baby was nursing. So far that hasn’t been an issue. The only challenge that remains in perfectly compartmentalizing the functional from the sexual breast is that I still leak… I need be to completely emptied and then remove the nursing pads before I can turn on the sexual switch. 

But all in all, the new bras are working their magic.